Congo Opposition Party Says Tshisekedi Is ‘Presumed’ Vote Winner

(Bloomberg) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo’s largest opposition party said its leader was the “presumed” winner of last week’s election and encouraged talks with the nation’s outgoing president to prepare a transition.

Union for Democracy and Social Progress head Felix Tshisekedi is one of three candidates in with a chance of succeeding Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the world’s biggest cobalt producer since 2001. He’s competing against rival opposition leader Martin Fayulu and Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, Kabila’s handpicked protege.

Congo’s National Independent Electoral Commission, known as CENI, postponed announcing the results of the Dec. 30 vote indefinitely on Sunday, intensifying speculation about the counting process and the outcome. UDPS Secretary-General Marc Kabund said there had been rumors that Tshisekedi and Kabila’s camps may be considering a post-election power-sharing arrangement.

Results Delay

“As for rumors stating a rapprochement between outgoing President Joseph Kabila and the presumed winning candidate of elections on Dec. 30, 2018, in this case, Felix Tshisekedi Tshilombo, the UDPS wants to clarify that must be seen in the context of national reconciliation,” Kabund told reporters Tuesday in the capital, Kinshasa. “The two personalities have an interest in meeting to prepare a peaceful and civilized transfer of power.”

The body that represents Congo’s Catholic bishops said on Thursday the results collected on election day by its 40,000-strong observer mission showed there was a clear winner, without identifying the person. The New York Times cited a senior adviser to Kabila as saying the Catholic group believes Fayulu won comfortably.

Fayulu urged CENI to release the results as soon as possible. The outcome may be announced within the next 48 hours, Politico.cd, a Kinshasa-based news website, reported on Wednesday.

“We call on CENI to publish in the shortest timeframe the provisional results of the presidential election,” Fayulu told reporters in Kinshasa. “We warn CENI against any attempt to twist the truth of the ballot box.”

SYMOCEL, a Congo-based observer group, said in a report released on Tuesday that there had been major irregularities in the tabulation process so far. In 16 percent of monitored centers, manually counted tally sheets weren’t taken into account in the compilation of results, as required under Congolese electoral law.

“This was noted mainly in Maniema,” it said. Maniema is Shadary’s home province.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.